Most days, I don’t go around feelin’ all feministy. The older I get, the less touchy I get about things that some women are extremely touchy about. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m absolutely a feminist. But I’m taking a longer view, watching the arc bend toward justice, and trying to be more charitable toward the entire human race, not just women.
That makes no sense. But here’s where I’m going with it:
Even with this mellow outlook, I can still be prodded to incandescent heights of rage from time to time. This week was one of them. The catalysts, in order:
Larry Nassar’s boss. William Strampel, the former dean of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, has been primarily known so far as the man who told the perp in the biggest institutional sex-abuse case in god-knows-how-long that he was doing a great job, and keep doin’ what you’re doin’. Which makes him look like a twit, but this week new charges were filed against him, and now he looks like another monster from the same mold:
Four women told investigators that, while they were medical students at MSU, Dr. William Derkey Strampel, 70 either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, court records say. The women said he made sexually inappropriate comments, groped them and appeared to offer them favorable treatment in exchange for sexual acts.
He also had plenty-plenty porn on his office computer. Police said many of the photos appeared to be of MSU students, likely the same medical students whose lives he was making miserable. If you read the story, Strampel comes across as a 70-year-old man who combines the arrogance of too many medical professionals with the sensibilities of the Mad Men era. He grabbed asses, eyed women up and down while they stood in front of him, and oh yeah he was a bully, too:
In 2011, a woman identified as Victim 2 fell asleep in class and Strampel summoned her to his office later. He told her not to sit down but to turn around twice so he could observe her body, she told police, before going on a rant degrading her body.
The woman told police Strampel told her she needed to dress sexier if she wanted to advance in her profession. The conversation lasted about an hour and Strampel never brought up a reason for the meeting.
For anyone likely to cut this guy slack because it’s a different era now or whatever, please consider that there’s probably no group in America who’s had more training on the subject of sexual harassment than academics. Which means this geezer just plain thought he could do whatever the hell he wanted and get away with it, more or less forever.
You wonder how people like Nassar get away with it for so long? It helps to have bosses like this.
You might know Williamson as a troll-y scribe for National Review, the conservative magazine. It’s safe to say that getting beamed up to the more mainstream Atlantic is a big career move. A few years ago, and not that many, Williamson got into a tweet-spat about abortion and the appropriate punishments for doing or having one. Unlike most right-to-lifers, who like to tell women they’re “the other victim” of the procedure, Williamson took off the gloves and got right to the point: Women who have abortions should be executed, he said. Painfully, perhaps by hanging.
He has deleted the tweets, but never retracted the statements. Women having a legal procedure he disapproves of should be executed painfully. That’s what Kevin Williamson said, and apparently still believes. So of course he’s working for a high-profile national magazine now.
Ask yourself how likely this would be if Williamson had expressed similar thoughts about African Americans, or any other group of people in this country. Ask yourself why this sort of statement is acceptable. If that’s too depressing, amuse yourself by considering, first, how common this belief is among virulent abortion opponents (it really is) and how much the very same people are clutching their pearls over some of the potty-mouthing coming from the Parkland kids. Oliver Willis puts it plainly:
the whole right-wing argument model relies on the left acting like the right's bullshit arguments are made in good faith and deserve a fair hearing. the parkland teens just viciously dismiss them and it makes them so mad. i love it.
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 27, 2018
How can you say that you want a workplace that values women when you hire someone who wants 25% of those women dead? How can you lead in a newsroom when your female subordinates now know that you consider their lives worth less than the clicks you’ll generate from a handful of articles?
I have had two abortions — one when I was younger and not ready to be a parent, another when I was a mother who desperately wanted more children but doing so could put my life at risk. I do not believe I should die because of this. I cannot believe that I need to write that sentence.
Any time I have written or spoken publicly my abortions, I have been threatened with death — and I’m far from alone. Women are terrorized about their reproductive decisions — whether it’s threats online or the increasingly frenzied violence against abortion providers and clinics. And, of course, it was just over two years ago that a shooter killed three people and injured nine others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood, screaming about “baby parts” — rhetoric directly taken from conservative writers.
By hiring Williamson, The Atlantic is sending a clear message: That the worst kind of harassment and intimidation women face — extremism that has been directly linked to real life violence — is acceptable. And that it’s more valuable to the magazine than the women who read it or work at there.
Yup. So right now I’m feeling real feministy. How do you feel?